U.S. Envoy at UN: Trump Mideast Peace Plan Is Subject to Changes

Palestinian President Abbas tells Security Council that 'the plan rewards the occupation,' describes future state envisioned by Trump as 'Swiss cheese'

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Feb. 11, 2020.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Feb. 11, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Trump administration's Mideast peace plan is a basis for negotiations and could be subject to changes, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft said Tuesday as the UN Security Council convened to discuss to the plan.

A senior Trump administration official said after the Security Council session that Washington is "willing to have an honest and open discussion on [the plan] as a possible basis to restart negotiations for a realistic two-state solution. As we’ve said all along, our plan is the start of a process, not the end."

Abbas speaking at the UN Security Council.

>> Read more: Ex-Israeli PM Olmert: Abbas is the only partner for peace

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Trump's plan seeks to "put an end to the question of Palestine," as he addressed the session earlier.

Abbas said the fact that the plan does not establish East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine was enough to require its rejection, describing the Palestinian state envisioned by the plan as "swiss cheese" and asking who would accept a similar state and similar conditions. "It is an Israeli-American preempitve plan in order to put an end to the question of Palestine," he said.

Donald Trump speaks to Kelly Craft at the White House, December 5, 2019.Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

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Following the session on Tuesday, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Abbas is Israel's only partner for peace, in a joint press conference with the Palestinian leader in New York, in which Abbas called for a resumption of peace talks from where they left off during Olmert's term.

In his statement, Olmert said that an Israeli-Palestinian peace requires direct negotiations between the two sides. He described Abbas as the only representative of the Palestinian people who is willing to negotiate with Israel, also praising him for fighting terrorism. The former prime minister however refrained from criticizing the American peace plan for the Middle East directly: "I don't miss an opportunity to do that in Israel, but I'm not going to do that here," he said

Speaking after Abbas, Israel's UN ambassador, Danny Danon, praised the Trump plan, saying that what it "does differently is refusing to accept the same out-of-date concepts of previous plans" and "refuses to accept that the only solution is the formula that has failed for over 70 years."

Danon also accused Abbas of not being a serious partner for peace, saying that if he were serious about negotiations, he would be in Jerusalem or Washington.

"Progress toward peace will not be made so long as President Abbas remains in his position," Danon said. "Only when he steps down, can Israel and the Palestinians move forward. A leader who choses rejectionism, incitement and glorification of terror can never be a real partner for peace."

The UN Security Council holds a meeting on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, New York City, November 20, 2019Credit: Mary Altaffer,AP

Abbas hit back at claims that the Palestinians have wasted opportunities for peace, saying that "these are silly slogans" and that the Palestinians remain committed to the Oslo Accords.

The Palestinian president further said: "I would like to reaffirm that we reject the fact that they are linking economic assistance to a political solution . . . First a political solution and then, if you wish to help us, we welcome that help."

"The plan rewards the occupation instead of holding it accountable for all the crimes it has perpetrated against our people and our land," Abbas said. "This plan will not bring peace or stability to the region and therefore we will not accept this plan, we will confront its application on the ground," Abbas added.

Abbas noted that several countries and international bodies, as well as many Israelis and Americans, have rejected the plan, showing a document signed by a dozen U.S. lawmakers and one signed by 300 Israelis.

Steps toward annexation of parts of the West Bank would have a "devastating effect" on the prospect of the two-state solution to the conflict, the UN's Mideast envoy, Nickolay Mladenov, said at the begining of the session.

Mladenov reaffirmed the UN's official position that peace can only be achieved with a two-state solution along the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states.

"Today it is not enough to reaffirm our positions," Mladenov said, urging the parties to engage in negotiations. "Today is the time to hear proposals on how to move forward and to find our way back to a mutually agreed mediation framework," he added.

Israeli forces clash with Palestinians during a protest against Trump's Mideast initiative in the West Bank city of Ramallah, February 11, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed,AP

Belgium's foreign minister, Philippe Goffin, meanwhile issued a statement on behalf of the four EU members of the Security Council, saying that "we remain committed to a negotiated two-state solution, based on 1967 lines, with equivalent land swaps, as may be agreed between the parties, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition."

The Trump administration has excluded funding for the Palestinian Security Services in its budget request for the 2021 fiscal year, after 27 years of bipartisan support and Israeli backing.

Trump's plan, the product of three years effort by senior adviser Jared Kushner, would recognize Israel's authority over the settlements and would require the Palestinians to meet a highly difficult series of conditions to be allowed to have a state, with its capital in a West Bank village east of Jerusalem.

There has been a slow but steady escalation in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank since the unveiling of the initiative. The Palestinian leadership, finding elusive unity, is planning to cut security ties with Israel, while an ongoing trade dispute puts increasing pressure on the Palestinian economy.

One Palestinian has been killed and dozens wounded in clashes with Israeli troops since the plan's release. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad Salman Toameh Al-Hadad was shot in the chest with live fire in Hebron last week and later died of his wounds. The previous week, soldiers also shot and severely wounded a 15-year-old Palestinian in the head with a rubber bullet during clashes in the northern West Bank town of Kafr Qaddum.

Israel bolstered its security presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem after three separate alleged terrorist attacks injured 14 soldiers on Thursday. Twelve were wounded, one seriously, in a car-ramming attack in Jerusalem, with the suspect, identified as Sanad Al Tarman, 24, in custody. In a separate incident, a Haifa resident, 45-year-old Shadi Bana, shot and injured a Border Police officer near Lion's Gate outside Jerusalem's Old City. He was shot and killed after attempting to flee the scene. A conscript was also lightly wounded by gunfire near the Israeli West Bank settlement of Dolev after reportedly being shot by a passing car.



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